BENGALURU: Having been reduced to a mere symbol by her own people in Manipur, activist Irom Sharmila, who was in the city recently, tells City Express about how she wants to detach from her place of birth. Excerpts:
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been revoked in Meghalaya and eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh. Do you see some justice done to the cause you were fighting for?
For 16 years, they deliberately ignored my struggle. Now, they are deploying their jawans in another place, it is just their politics. But, in a way, it's good. Why must you apply the draconian law that was imposed by the British colonisers? Right now, we are a democratic, republic country. The AFSPA tarnishes the image of a democracy. It is a draconian law.
You said you're trying to detach your association with Manipur and that you're trying to move on. Do you feel cheated by your own people?
These 16 years, I have been committed to a cause and it was all done without any selfish motive. I did not even have a single drop of water. Then I decided to change my strategy, with that I also tried to seek their opinion. But I was just ignored. So I started it on my own will and gave up everything on my own will. Once I changed my strategy, they only treated me with hatred.
With that kind of reaction, I did not want any sense of attachment to them. Giving up the fasting was like a turning point. Till then I would be treated like their goddess, their daughter and their sister. And once I changed, they started looking at me like a poor, selfish, escapist woman. That's why as a human being I want to live and commit to the cause and carry on with my struggle in moderate and alternate ways. But not with my people and my relatives. I want to give up on my native.
Have you thought of going back to politics?
Everything is politics, the talk I have with students is also a kind of politics. But I'm done with the government, and country politics. The idea of a democracy is to elect someone who represents our demands. But does that actually work? Do you think it is the peoples' vote that actually puts the concerned minister in power? There is an ugliness to the reality of my getting 90 votes- my own brother strongly against the idea of my contesting the elections.
Since the beginning, my brother had been supporting my struggle, and later he misused my struggle and abused my popularity for his own benefit. With the use of my long struggle and campaigning from Khurai constituency, he got the help of many organisations – men, women and many civil society groups. That’s how he provided for the candidates for the Khurai constituency and provided for 10,000 voters.
During every election, he gets `5lakh. And it is done via a mediator. I indirectly heard of this. I fought the election with the loss of that money. I think that’s why he objected so strongly about me giving up my fast and standing for elections.
The CM’s constituency is Thoubal and mine is Khurai. When I decided to stand against the CM in his own constituency, my brother asked: “Why do you want to stand for elections?” He was strongly against my standing for elections from both constituencies. He works with a conservative mindset, without using his own conscience. He is like a puppet. That culture is very strong there and it’s ugly. My so-called supporters, my trust and rights were all abused. All in the name of campaigning, and lakhs of rupees were exploited. It is very dirty. I myself was pursuing a cause without a single drop of water, my tongue would turn dry.
The truth is, I never willingly agreed to their kind of campaign. They twisted my writing. They sent me a questionnaire, half of my answers, they removed and inserted their own views. They were fabricating my history. I decided I wanted to make my own history. Now, every day I just sing and pray for freedom.